As unemployment got close to 8% some years ago, I had a feeling that we were going to start seeing more and more people deciding to try to go the independent route and become consultants of some type. After all, many people were losing their jobs to companies outside of the country, and many others were being downsized because companies were starting to lose money by not being able to make enough sales. Of course there were other reasons as well.
Back in 2001, it was one of those “other reasons” that launched my deciding to take a shot at working for myself. After all, I was experiencing losing my job for the second time over something that ultimately had nothing to do with me. I felt that taking a shot at having more control over my career was imminently going to be more satisfying than giving another employer the opportunity to decide I had to for whatever reason they came up with. And if that didn’t work, I could always go look for another job, right?
I know a lot of people who lost their jobs as the unemployment level kept rising. Nationally it went to almost 10%; locally it got to more than 8.5%. I know that I talked to a lot of them about taking a shot at working for themselves while they were looking for new work. Many of them had pretty good skills that could translate into a solo career. True, marketing is always a hard thing, but the way I saw it they had nothing to lose and everything to gain as they collected unemployment.
Instead, not one of the people I know wanted to even give it a shot. If they had been out every day looking for new work I might have understood it. But the way it worked out, you’d see them going out on Monday based on what they’d seen in the Sunday newspaper, and then basically taking the rest of the week off if they couldn’t get an interview. That’s having a lot of hope that something’s just going to come to you; trust me, I’ve been there, and it’s not a good feeling. Yet time after time I’d make a suggestion that someone at least try, and time after time they’d defer.
I’ve wondered what it is that scares people from giving independent employment a shot, and I realize there’s no one answer. Working for someone else is safe. If that’s all you know, then it’s hard to think of doing anything else. Being an independent consultant really does take a lot of guts, a lot of conviction, and a lot of belief. It takes knowing when to allow someone else to help you. It takes networking and being willing to put yourself on the line. There’s no hiding behind someone else when you’re a consultant; it’s all on you.
Those of you who are consultants, I applaud you for it. You took the plunge at some point and decided to give it a shot. Probably very few of us ever get it perfect; that’s not really what it’s all about. What it’s about is deciding you want to have the opportunity for control of your business life, which is also your personal life. You have control of your destiny; you hide in no one’s shadow.
Of course we welcome others into the fold. Some will step up to the plate; some can’t fathom it. Too bad; they don’t know what they’re missing.